HDTV and DVD quality questions...

Uridian

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Matt Hasselmann
Hi all, I'm a new poster, though I've benefitted from reading this forum quite a bit in the past.

My girlfriend and I are seriously considering replacing our 27" CRT with some form of HDTV (LCD or Plasma) and I have some questions about DVD picture quality, etc...

First off, let me say that I've read about as much as I can find about these, but nothing spefically answers my question(s).

First, a little background. I have on order an Xbox 360 but have not opted for the hd-dvd player just yet. Up until now, I've used the original Xbox (with Xbmc)as our sole DVD player.

Ok... We watch a lot of movies (and plenty of TV) and my main question is: Will my current DVD collection and an Xbox(xbmc)/Xbox 360 take advantage of the extra resolution of an HDTV? I've just found the term 'upconverting' and i'm a little confused about it. does it purely mean "scaling up the image" like you would in say, photoshop? 640x480 scaled to 1440x1080 or whatever? If that's the case, and the built in dvd player in the 360 does not do that, then what does? We're on a very tight budget for this, so a standalone player or a TV for more than say $1200 (ideally 1000 or less) is out of the question. Would I find a TV that can upscale for me for that amount or less? Do all HDTV do upscaling just in case it's connected to a standard outputing device?

Would a non-upscaling DVD player playing on an HDTV have any picture quality improvement over an SDTV? Or should I wait until i can do HD-DVD over VGA on an HDTV?

Next question: A lot of the TV's i've been looking at are 1366x768, but the standard HD output is 720p, so would the TV have to scale the input up to fit the screens native resolution? Does that cause significant image degradation? Should i make sure the TV's native resolution is 720 or 1080?

thanks in advance. if this it posted in the wrong forum (maybe it should be in basics?) i apologize and request that it be moved to the most appropriate place.

-matt
 

RAF

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Actually matt, this is the perfect place to bring up this topic. Welcome to the HTF!

To get the ball rolling regarding some of your questions - Any digital display has to be able to "upscale" (or convert) the incoming signal to the native display resolution of the monitor or otherwise you would not get a picture. That said, some sets do this better than others and that's usually reflected in the ratings of the models. Generally, a lot of what makes one display produce a better picture than another one has to do with what that display does with the incoming signal.

One way around this (but probably way beyond what you asking here) is to purchase a set that will accept as native input the exact resolution that the unit is able to display. This way, the input signal goes straight to the display without any internal video processing and this removes the quality of the display's scaling from the equation. I have written an extensive article on this which appears in a separate thread here if you wish to learn more about this area.

As to your question about 720p displays that actually are 1366 x 768 or some other combination I have found that in general the internal processing of these sets when taking in a 720p signal is usually good enough so that you can't really note much of a difference. I wouldn't be overly concerned about it. Calling it a "720p" set, while technically off by a couple of pixels is not, in my opinion, a major concern. Besides, most of these sets accept 720p so that even if you could feed it a 1366 x 768 signal you might not be able to see it. (The set would have to be able to handle external 1366 x 768 signals - which is quite rare.) The bottom line - for most practical applications I wouldn't worry too much about the actual numbers being thrown around for what is essentially a choice between 720p sets and 1080p sets. Within the 720p "family" you are bound to find a bunch of slightly different sets of numbers.

As to the quality of using a gaming device as a DVD player - In the past I generally found that using game machines (I had an XBox) as DVD players didn't provide as good a picture as using a separate DVD player. I was never impressed with the XBox's ability to produce a good DVD picture in this regard. Surprisingly, now that I have an XBox360 with the HD-DVD attachment I've revised my opinion on all this. Not only does the XBox360/HD-DVD player produce an excellent HD-DVD picture (equivalent to my much more expensive Toshiba XA-1) but I was pleasantly surprised to see that the picture quality of SD-DVDs on the 360/HD-DVD player was on a par with many "regular" DVD players. While I have other reasons for using a separate DVD player for my SD DVDs I no longer have any prejudice against the XBox 360 as a capable mainstream DVD palyer. Interestingly, I've seen a few reviews that laud the PS3 for its Blu-ray HD playback but criticize the picture quality of SD playback on that unit. So my recommendation for using a gaming device for SD playback is not universal across the board.

There are many other items to address in your post, but I'll turn the mike over to others to answer. Hope some of this helps.
 

Uridian

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Matt Hasselmann
Thank you for your prompt response!


That's good to know the 768 vs 720 question issue. It did strike me as odd how many sets are 768 when the 'standard' is 720.

I have started reading your article about the component approach, but I must admit that a lot of it goes over my head at this point.

My biggest question, which I failed to adequately simplify in my first post, was whether it was worth the money to upgrade to an HD set (concerning DVD playblack) without upgrading to an HD-DVD player, gaming system or otherwise, or if sticking with a standard def CRT would yield as good or better results. Or is this specifically related to the quality of the HDTV (and the CRT i'm replacing)? I'm sure I'll upgrade to HD-DVD sooner or later, but I'm wondering if I should hold off on an HDTV until I do.

thanks again!

-matt
 

RAF

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Don't worry about the content of my "Component Approach" article at this point, matt. It's not something that I'm going to test you on, and feel free to use it (or ignore it) as you see fit. Perhaps a bit later you might want to delve deeper into video and it will be there waiting for you as a potential resource. Video can be enjoyed without understanding everything that's "behind the curtain." We're not in Kansas any more.



And regarding your question on a new TV. At this point, since HD sources are becoming more and more prevalent (and prices for HD sets have dropped dramatically at the same time) I find it difficult to recommend that anyone purchase a "standard" TV at this point (unless you get a killer closeout price since a lot of companies are phasing out SD only TVs.) Case in point: Sony has recently announced that they have produced their last CRT - and that's an HD capable one.

If I read your question correctly, I think that you are asking if buying a High Def TV will automatically improve the picture on SD material as well. Actually, probably not except for any improvement in picture from the newer technology. 480i source material (DVDs) will still be 480i. However, since a lot of DVD players - even inexpensive ones - offer some upscaling capabilities (to 720p and 1080i) if your set can handle these higher resolutions you will most likely see an improvement in the picture. Don't get me wrong - upscaled SD discs are not HD discs - but if done properly an upscaled SD disc can look much cleaner. Usually the best examples of this come from the use of a state of the art external video processor (my article again) but that's beyond the scope of what you were asking.

I'm just saying that an HD set opens the door to better pictures from SD material with the right player, but the HD display will not perform magic on its own. In fact, I've fielded a lot of questions from people who sometimes complain that their SD discs actually look worse on HD sets. While this is a possibility because if the SD material is flawed one thing a HD set will do is bring out the flaws more clearly, I usually find that this is a psychological thing. Once a person sees an HD image (which has 6 times the resolution of an SD image) then it's natural to think that the SD image stinks. But it's really a matter of comparison. If they look closely, most people admit that SD material looks at least as good on their new HD set as with their old set - but the new set is capable of so much more in HD that SD is a definite step backwards once they've seen HD. Also, since most HD sets are widescreen (which I prefer and that's the way the industry is going) 4:3 SD sources have black bars on the left and the right side (unless you use one of those "stretch" modes) and some people are turned off by that. For myself, when I watch SD shows I forget that the black bars are there since well over 50% of everything I watch is in HD and in 16:9.

The bottom line: If you get an HD set you are buying something that will accommodate your future as well as your current needs. The SD picture will not suffer and the set can take advantage of some existing and future technologies when you are ready to make the jump to the next step. Otherwise, anything you invest in a new SD set will be lost when you decide to go HD.

Some more food for thought.
 

Steve Schaffer

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Simple answer: You will definitely see a significant improvement without upgrading your player or gaming system when using an HD-capable set vs your current SDTV. You will no longer be using anamorphic downconversion for your widescreen dvds as you will set your player to output 16/9--it will no longer be throwing out every third line of resolution. The lack of visible scanlines will also be a very significant improvement.

Poor analog cable signals will look worse on a larger screen, but good quality sources will look significantly better.
 

ppltd

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Adding to the other responses, you will be blown away at the look of the XBox 360 games in HD. Pick up the HD-DVD add-on. It is a great way to get into HD viewing. Welcome to the club...
 

Uridian

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Matt Hasselmann
Thanks for the advice, all... that's about all I needed. I'm now officially (however casually) shopping for an HDTV.
 

Kevin M

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Kevin Ray
I have a question:

I recently bought a JVC 30" CTR HDTV set and am quite pleased with it's picture quality but one thing I am confused about, why is it that when I play either Digital Video Essentials or Avia in progressive (on my Pioneer DV-563a) the pluge blacker than video black pattern disappears but if I switch the output to interlaced it returns?
What does Progressive vs. Interlaced have to do with the blacker than black pluge signal?
 

Cavan.B

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It must be the Pioneer's processing. It's clipping the BTB during deinterlacing, while your TVs scaler is not (it's likely scaling it up to 1080i). If the picture quality is the same, I'd leave it in interlaced mode.
 

Kevin M

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Kevin Ray
Ok, I have an upconversion player now and the BTB Pluge pattern doesn't show through HDMI in progressive either....why? How does progressive scanning clip the BTB Pluge signal?
And if it is a common thing for progressive to do this, then how do we know we are getting a accurate representative image of what was put on the disc, I mean if it is clipping blacker than black what other detail is being left out?

Also CC doesn't seem to work through RGB or HDMI in progressive either, now that is a surprise to me.

A-Ha! I found a review of this older player at Home Theater Mag's website:


..Well there it is, it is indeed the player and I suppose (based on the various reviews I read) that a player not passing BTB won't effect true image quality.
 

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